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The Herules
Herules
(or Heruli) were an East Germanic
East Germanic
tribe who lived north of the Black Sea
Black Sea
apparently near the Sea of Azov, in the third century AD, and later moved (either wholly or partly) to the Roman frontier on the central European Danube, at the same time as many eastern barbarians during late antiquity, such as the Goths, Huns, Scirii, Rugii
Rugii
and Alans. In the third century, they were named along with Goths
Goths
as one of the most important "Scythian" groups who attacked Greece from the Black Sea by sea, and marauded around the Balkans for several years. In the fourth century, they were subjugated by the empires of Ermanaric the Ostrogoth, and later Attila
Attila
the Hun; they are not mentioned in the written record until after the death of Attila. Along with many other people they reappear in the written records as one of many groups from the east who were struggling for supremacy on the left bank of the middle Danube
Danube
after the death of Attila, in the area stretching from modern Bavaria to modern Hungary. They established their own kingdom and many joined Odoacer, who deposed the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
in 476 AD. They became well known both as soldiers in various Roman armies, in the Italian kingdom of Odoacer, and as sea raiders on the Atlantic coast, before fading out of history. The Danubian kingdom broke up and remnants settled in the Balkans and other places. The last known political entity which was described as Herulian seem to have been in the area of modern Belgrade
Belgrade
in the 550s, as a settlement within the Roman Empire and under Roman control. The details of their history are difficult to reconstruct. Like the Goths
Goths
and some other Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
who entered the Roman Empire, there was an origin myth for the Herules
Herules
wherein they had come from the far north of Europe, and been ejected after fighting with a neighbouring people, in this case named as the Dani.

Contents

1 History

1.1 Origins 1.2 Before Attila 1.3 After Attila

2 Culture

2.1 In fiction

3 Cities sacked by the Herules 4 See also 5 References 6 Bibliography 7 External links

History[edit] Origins[edit]

Map of Scandza based on Jordanes: Herulian homeland is located in Southern Sweden

The Herules
Herules
are possibly first mentioned as the "Hirri" in the first century AD writings of Pliny the Elder. Plinius stated that the territory extending from the Vistula
Vistula
river, as far as Eningia (probably he meant Feningia = Finland), is inhabited by the following nations: the Wends, the Scirii
Scirii
and the Hirri.[1] (The Scirii
Scirii
were another East Germanic
East Germanic
people who, like the Herules, moved from somewhere near the Sea of Azov
Sea of Azov
to the Danube, during the times of the Huns
Huns
and Goths.) The 6th-century AD chronicler Jordanes
Jordanes
reported a tradition that they had been driven out of their homeland by the North Germanic Dani, which places their origins in the Danish isles or southernmost Sweden. This origin above was a general mistake caused by a Danish historian in 1783 AD. There are no sources at all indicating a Scandinavian origin as the remark of Jordanes
Jordanes
is now regarded to refer to a meeting between Herules
Herules
and Danes contemporary with the one of Procopius. The news was spread by an envoy returning from Scandinavia in 548AD and both historians finished their works in Constantinople 551-553AD – making it extremely unlikely that the two meetings should be separated by 300 years. Furthermore, the etymology of the Heruli
Heruli
was associated with the Sea of Asov according to Jordanes. He could not in the same time regard their origin as Scandinavian. The Herules
Herules
were possibly a mix of Goths, Sammartians and Bosporanians at the eastern bank of the Dnepr. The connection between the Western Heruli
Heruli
in Frisia (Harlingen?) and the Eastern is unknown, but a group may in the 3rd century have crossed Europe against east or west[2]. Before Attila[edit] The first clear mention of the Herules
Herules
by Roman writers is generally taken to be in the reign of Gallienus
Gallienus
(260-268 AD). This is based on accepting the later writer Jordanes, who equated the Herules
Herules
of his time and the "Elouri" mentioned by Dexippus.[3] These Elouri accompanied the Goths
Goths
and other "Scythians" ravaging the coasts of the Black Sea
Black Sea
(today southern Ukraine) and later entering the Aegean, a "sea-borne invasion of unprecedented size took place in the spring of 268".[4] Sacks of Byzantium, Chrysopolis, Lemnos, Scyros, Sparta, Corinth
Corinth
and Argos
Argos
followed. Armed groups moved around Greece and the Balkans, and the East Roman military took several years to contain the threat. After suffering a crushing defeat at the river Nestos one surrendering Herul chief named Naulobatus became the first barbarian known from written records to receive imperial insignia from the Romans.[5] It seems to have been the Herules
Herules
specifically who sacked Athens
Athens
despite the construction of a new wall, during Valerian’s reign only a generation earlier. This was the occasion for a famous defense made by Dexippus, whose writings were a source for later historians. The Romans had a major victory at the Battle of Naissus
Battle of Naissus
in 269, apparently a distinct battle from that at the Nessos, where a Herul chieftain named Andonnoballus is said to have switched to the Roman side. But attacks continued until 276.[6]

The shield pattern of the Heruli
Heruli
seniores, a Late Roman military
Late Roman military
unit composed of Heruli.

Herules
Herules
were also seen in western Europe before the empire of Attila. In 268 Claudius Mamertinus reported the victory of Maximian
Maximian
over a group of Herules
Herules
and Chaibones (known only from this one report[7]) attacking Gaul. It is believed that it was from this time that the Romans instituted a Herul auxiliary unit, the Heruli
Heruli
seniores, who were stationed in northern Italy
Italy
and often associated with the Batavian Batavi seniores.[8] In 406, a large number of barbarian groups crossed the Rhine, entering the Roman empire, and the Herules
Herules
appear in the list of peoples given by the historian Jerome. However this list is sometimes thought to have drawn on historical lists for literary effect. A more difficult phenomenon for historians to explain is the appearance in these times of significant sea-borne raiding groups of Herules, as far away as northern Portugal, by this time under control of Suevi
Suevi
who had been involved in the 406 Rhine crossing approximately 50 years earlier. This was reported by Hydatius. Some historians have even speculated that there must have been a western Herul group with a power base somewhere in northern Europe, but not all historians agree that this assumption is justified.[9] It has for example been suggested that these Herules
Herules
were working under the Visigothic kingdom in nearby southwestern France, and descended largely from eastern peoples who had been in the Roman army of the goth Alaric I
Alaric I
in Italy, and who were heavily involved in conflict with the Suevi
Suevi
and other kingdoms in Iberia at the time.[10] In their apparent place of origin, near the Sea of Azov, Jordanes reports that much earlier Ermaneric the Goth conquered the Herules, whose leader at this time was named Alaric (or Halaric), a name which would be used several times in later history of the East Germanic peoples including the Goths. After this nothing is heard of them again in that region.

After Attila[edit] After the death of Attila
Attila
his sons and their Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
allies lost power over the various peoples of his empire at the Battle of Nedao in 454. The centre of this alliance was now settled upon the Roman border. Herules
Herules
on the winning side of the Gepids
Gepids
were subsequently among the several peoples now able to form a kingdom on the northern banks of the Danubian area. The losing Ostrogothic forces moved into the Balkans, under Byzantine influence. The Herul kingdom, apparently under a king named Rodulph, was established north of modern Vienna
Vienna
and Bratislava, near the Morava river, and possibly extending as far east as the Little Carpathians. They ruled over a mixed population including Suevi, Huns
Huns
and Alans. From this region they pushed westwards, on one occasion attacking Passau, and eventually established control on the Roman (south) side of the Danube, north of Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton
in modern Hungary. They do not appear in early lists of Odoacer's allies after Nedao, but they were apparently able to take over the kingdoms of the Suevi
Suevi
and Scirii, who had been under pressure from the Ostrogoths, who continued to press their old allies from the Balkans. Odoacer, the commander of the Imperial foederati troops who deposed the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus
Romulus Augustus
in 476 AD came to be seen as king over several of the Danubian peoples including the Herules, and the Herules
Herules
were strongly associated with his Italian kingdom. The Herules
Herules
on the Danube
Danube
took control of the Rugian territories, who had become competitors to Odoacer
Odoacer
and been defeated by him in 488. However Herules
Herules
suffered badly in Italy, as loyalists of Odoacer
Odoacer
when he was defeated by the Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
Theoderic. By 500 the Herule kingdom on the Danube
Danube
had made peace with Theoderic and become his allies.[11] Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon
also mentions Herules
Herules
living in Italy
Italy
under Ostrogothic rule.[12]

Polities in southeastern Europe c.520 AD before the Lombard destruction of the Herulian 'kingdom'

Theoderic's efforts to build a system of alliances in Western Europe were made difficult both by counter diplomacy, for example between Merovingian Franks
Franks
and the Byzantine empire, and also the arrival of a new Germanic people into the Danubian region, the Lombards. The Herule king Rodulph lost his kingdom to the Lombards
Lombards
at some point between 494 and 508.[13] After the Herulian kingdom was destroyed by the Lombards, Herulian fortunes waned. Some remaining Herules
Herules
joined the Lombards
Lombards
and others moved into the old territory of the Gepids, and/or into areas where some defeated Rugii
Rugii
had moved after 488. According to Procopius
Procopius
many of the royal family with fellows went north and settled in "Thule" (the Scandinavian Peninsula) which corresponds to the envoy in 548 above and below [14].Others were moved into the northern Balkans, and came under East Roman authority.[15] Anastasius Caesar allowed them to resettle depopulated "lands and cities" in the empire in 512. Modern scholars debate whether they were moved then to Singidunum
Singidunum
(modern Belgrade), or first to Bassianae, and to Singidunum
Singidunum
some decades later, by Justinian.[16] In any case it appears that Justinian intended to integrate them into the empire as a buffer between the Romans and the more independent Lombards
Lombards
and Gepids
Gepids
to the north. The Herules
Herules
were often mentioned during the times of Justinian, who used them in his extensive military campaigns in many countries including Italy, Syria, and North Africa. Pharus was a notable Herulian commander during this period. Several thousand Herules
Herules
served in the personal guard of Belisarius
Belisarius
throughout the campaigns, and Narses
Narses
also recruited from them. Procopius
Procopius
related that some the Herules
Herules
who had been settled in the Roman Balkans killed their own king and, not wanting the one assigned by the emperor, they made contact with other Herules
Herules
who had gone north instead after the defeat, seeking a new king who then arrived from Thule. Their request was granted, and a new king arrived with 200 young men - this was the envoy mentioned in the chapter "Origins". Procopius, who did not like the Herules, said that after the succession dispute involving Justinian, some joined the Gepids
Gepids
and some remained loyal to Constantinople. In 549, when the Gepids
Gepids
fought the Romans, Herules
Herules
fought on both sides.[17] In any case after one generation in the Belgrade
Belgrade
area, the Herulian federate polity in the Balkans disappears from the surviving historical records, apparently replaced by the incoming Avars.[18] Culture[edit] According to Procopius, the Herules
Herules
were a polytheistic society known to practice human sacrifice, although it appears that by the time of Justinian, who wrote about his own times, many had become Arian Christians. In any case, Justinian
Justinian
appears to have pursued a policy of attempting to convert them to Chalcedonian Christianity.[19] In H.B. Dewing's translation of Procopius' "History of the Wars", the Herules
Herules
are blamed for practising bestiality:

"They are still, however, faithless toward them [the Romans], and since they are given to avarice, they are eager to do violence to their neighbours, feeling no shame at such conduct. And they mate in an unholy manner, especially men with asses, and they are the basest of all men and utterly abandoned rascals."[20]

Other sources however interprets Procopius' writings to say that the Herules
Herules
practised a warrior-based male homosexuality instead.[21][22] Dewing's translation also says that the Herules
Herules
practiced a form of senicide, having a non-relative kill the sick and elderly and burning the remains on a wooden pyre. Following the death of their husbands, Herul women were expected to commit suicide by hanging. With the ascent of Justinian, Procopius
Procopius
says that the Herules
Herules
within the empire converted to Christianity and "adopted a gentler manner of life." In terms of combat tactics, the Herules
Herules
carried no protective armor save a shield and thick jacket.[23] Herul slaves are known to have accompanied them into combat.[citation needed] Slaves were forbidden from donning a shield until having proven themselves brave on the battlefield.[citation needed] Their name is sometimes thought to be related to earl (see erilaz) and was probably an honorific military title. But this is connected to the speculation that the Herules
Herules
were not a normal tribal group but an elite group of mobile warriors, and there is no consensus for this theory.[24] In fiction[edit]

The Herules
Herules
appear in the historical novel The Bearkeeper's Daughter by Gillian Bradshaw They appear in the historical novel "The Wolves Of The North" by Harry Sidebottom

Cities sacked by the Herules[edit]

Athens Byzantium Chrysopolis Lemnos Skyros Sparta Corinth

See also[edit]

Ancient Germanic culture portal

Järsberg Runestone

References[edit]

^ "Nec minor opinione Eningia. Quidam haec habitari ad Vistulam a Sarmatis, Venedis, Sciris, Hirris, tradunt". Plinius, IV. 27. ^ Walther Goffart, 2006, p. 205-209 ^ Steinacher pp. 322-3 ^ Steinacher p.322 ^ Steinacher p.324 ^ Steinacher p.326 ^ They may have been Aviones. See for example Neumann, Namenstudien zum Altgermanischen ^ Steinacher pp.326-7 ^ Steinacher p.328 ^ Halsall, Guy, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West 376-568 , pages 260 and 265. Sidonius Appolinarius mentions Herules
Herules
at the Visigothic court in 476, although this is in a poetic letter (Letters 8.9). ^ Steinacher pp.338-45 ^ Steinacher p.347 ^ Sarantis p.366 ^ Walther Goffart, Barbarian Tides, 2006, p.205-9 ^ Steinacher p.350 ^ Sarantis p.369 ^ Sarantis p.394 ^ Steinacher p.354-5 ^ Sarantis p.372 ^ Procopius
Procopius
History of the Wars. V and VI. Translated by H.B. Dewing. Harvard University Press. 1919. Retrieved 24 August 2016.  ^ http://www.connellodonovan.com/heruli.html ^ Procopius
Procopius
(January 4, 2008). History of the Wars: The Gothic War. Books V and VI. Dodo Press. ISBN 1-4065-6655-1.  ^ Procopius
Procopius
(December 28, 2007). History of the Wars: The Persian War. Books I and II. Dodo Press. ISBN 1-4065-6655-1.  ^ Steinacher p.360

Bibliography[edit]

Walther Goffart (2006), Barbarian Tides Sarantis, Alexander (2010), "The Justinianic Herules", Neglected Barbarians  Steinacher, Roland (2010), "The Herules", Neglected Barbarians 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Heruli.

 "Heruli". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.   "Heruli". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 

Troels Brandt: The Heruls in Scandinavia

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